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"Seeking liberty and truth above suppression and mendacity!"
"Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech," said Benjamin Franklin.
Everyone has an opinion and the right to speak that opinion our forefathers granted us that right it's called the First Amendment. Read it then discuss it in the Forums. Find out about Donald J. Trump’s time in the white house. Donald J. Trump is a crook, a con man and liar who uses alternative facts and projects himself on to other.

By Rebecca Morin, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump's former aide Hope Hicks sat down with the House Judiciary Committee for nearly eight hours on Wednesday to answer questions about her time in the White House. The former White House communications director, the first senior administration official mentioned in former special counsel Robert Mueller's report to appear before Congress, was subpoenaed because of her proximity to Trump. Most notably, the committee members wanted to know about several episodes described in the Mueller report as attempts to thwart the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. But throughout her marathon testimony, Hicks did not answer many questions related to her time in the Trump administration. Two White House lawyers were present during the testimony and often interjected with a quick "objection" to lawmakers' questions. In total, 155 questions went unanswered. The queries she refused ranged from where her desk was in the White House to the president's actions raised in Mueller's report, according to a transcript published by the Judiciary Committee.

The war drums get louder after Iran announces that it will exceed the uranium stockpile limit set by the 2015 nuclear deal.
By Elham Khatami
As the Trump administration works to drum up support for military action against Iran, many GOP lawmakers and mainstream media outlets have predictably and conveniently fallen in line, accepting the narrative that the country is hell-bent on building nuclear weapons and destroying the Middle East. Tensions between the United States and Iran have escalated since the Trump administration blamed Iran for an attack on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week, mere hours after the investigation into the attack began. In the days that followed, the United States has presented little evidence — beyond images, mine fragments, and a magnet — to prove Iran’s alleged role in the attack. The U.S. Navy, for its part, has stopped short of directly blaming Iran, which denies responsibility for the attacks. Last Friday, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an independent investigation into the matter, adding that “it is very important to know the truth.” Despite the lack of clarity, media outlets like CBS News, FOX Business, The Hill, and BBC News parroted Trump administration claims that “Iran did do it” with little context.

‘I mean, you’re getting great ratings, in all fairness, Sean,’ the president says of the ‘tremendous’ ratings his rally got on Tuesday night.
By Justin Baragona
A night after Fox News ran President Trump’s 2020 re-election “kickoff” rally uninterrupted in primetime, Fox News host Sean Hannity handed over almost the entirety of his show to a phone interview with the president. And while their friendly conversation on Wednesday night broke little news, the president did find time to boast about his rally’s ratings—and to take an apparent jab at Hannity. Discussing Trump’s penchant for using Twitter, Hannity noted that many people would like for Trump to “turn off the switch,” prompting the president to say he uses social media to circumvent the media. Trump then quickly pivoted to his TV ratings. “If I don’t use social media—outside of you and a few other great people—I call them patriots,” the president told Hannity. “But actually, you’re not REALLY patriots as much as you want ratings.” “I mean, you're getting great ratings, in all fairness Sean. It’s like, last night, you got tremendous—I heard the speech. That was an easy night, you and Tucker [Carlson] and everyone else said let’s do it and you did it.”

By Daniel Politi
Washington is intensifying its campaign to install malware in Russia’s power grid in an illustration of how the administration is getting more aggressive as the cyber war between the two countries intensifies. In a bombshell report released Saturday afternoon, the New York Times reveals the United States is stepping up its digital attacks on Russia’s electric grid. The move is seen as part warning to President Vladimir Putin and part a readiness effort to be ready to carry out a significant cyberstrike if a conflict breaks out. The stepped up incursion into Russia’s power grid is part of the broader response to Moscow’s efforts to affect the outcome of the 2018 midterm elections and comes after many within the administration had been calling for more aggressive action despite the “risk of escalating the daily digital Cold War between Washington and Moscow.” And officials say the difference is noticeable. “It has gotten far, far more aggressive over the past year,” a senior intelligence official told the Times. “We are doing things at a scale that we never contemplated a few years ago.”

By Tom Vanden Brook and Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — The FBI has been examining a violent domestic dispute from nine years ago between acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and his then-wife as part of a background investigation ahead of his possible confirmation hearing to be President Trump’s permanent defense chief. Tuesday afternoon, Trump said he would replace Shanahan as acting secretary. The incident, in which Shanahan and his then-wife Kimberley both claimed to the police that they had been punched by the other, did not surface when Trump nominated Shanahan to be the Pentagon’s second-in-command two years ago, or when he was selected to be the interim defense chief this year. Shanahan said he "never laid a hand on" his former wife. His former wife, who now goes by the name Kimberley Jordinson, said she stands by her account. The episode could have been a potential roadblock for Shanahan if Trump formally nominated him for the secretary’s post, which requires Senate confirmation, because a key lawmaker and Senate aides said it could have raised questions about his ability to combat longstanding problems of violence against women in the military. Among the concerns of Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services committee, and Senate aides: They were not fully aware of the incident when Shanahan was confirmed for the No. 2 position; and the Senate should have the opportunity to assess whether he was the aggressor or victim and how that could affect his ability to lead the armed forces. “The question is going to be whether or not he’s credible on the issue. If he’s credible, he’ll be OK,” said Leon Panetta, who was defense secretary and CIA director during President Barack Obama’s administration. “These days nothing is out of bounds.”

The Affordable Clean Energy rule replaces the Clean Power Plan. It could increase carbon emissions.
By Umair Irfan
The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday killed President Obama’s signature climate change policy, the Clean Power Plan (CPP). It’s one of the few definitive wins in the Trump administration’s full-court press to undo and weaken environmental regulations. Speaking before an audience that included coal miners wearing reflective shirts and hard hats, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler criticized the Obama policy, which required states to meet targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and aimed to reduce US power sector emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. “The CPP would have asked low- and middle-income Americans to bear the costs of the previous administration’s climate plan,” Wheeler said. “One analysis predicted double-digit electricity price increases in 40 states under the CPP.” The EPA is still required to regulate greenhouse gases, but the CPP’s new replacement, the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, is drastically weaker. The ACE rule would lower power sector emissions by 11 million tons by 2030, or between 0.7 percent and 1.5 percent. The EPA noted that long-term industry trends are expected to still push emissions down 35 percent, but that’s largely independent of the ACE rule. Speaking at the announcement, White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Wednesday that US emissions are “flat or down.” That is wrong. In fact, US greenhouse gas emissions are on the rise after years of decline. So the new ACE rule is likely to do little to slow the US power sector’s impact on the global climate. According to some researchers, the new policy itself could actually increase greenhouse gas emissions, even compared to business as usual. And according to the EPA’s own assessments last year, the proposal will lead to thousands more deaths from air pollution. However, environmental groups are gearing up to file legal challenges to the ACE rule. And despite its intentions, the new regulation would do little to slow the decline of the US coal industry.

President Donald Trump boasted with abandon in launching his 2020 re-election campaign, overreached in excoriating his critics and promised progress on his border wall and health care that is improbable at best. In those respects, his latest campaign rally was much like any other by the president. Here’s a look at his rhetoric from Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday night: JOBS - TRUMP: “Almost 160 million people are working. That’s more than ever before.” THE FACTS: Yes, but that’s not a feather in a president’s cap. More people are working primarily because there are more people. Population growth drives this phenomenon. Other than during recessions, employment growth has been trending upward since 1939, when the Labor Department started counting. The annual rate of job growth is 1.6% through May. That rate has been within the same range since roughly 2011.

By Kaitlan Collins and Kevin Liptak, CNN
(CNN) - For Hope Hicks, President Donald Trump is "boss man" no more. Once the President's closest West Wing confidante -- the recipient of his repeated phone calls, the witness to his angriest moments, and according to other campaign aides, the person who steamed wrinkles out of his pants -- sources now say their relationship has changed. Instead of carrying out a near-constant conversation, they rarely speak. Hicks returns to Washington on Wednesday to testify behind closed doors before the House Judiciary Committee for its investigation into possible obstruction of justice by the President. This account is based on interviews with several current and former administration officials, as well as people close to Trump and Hicks. The once-close pair's communication first slowed, then came to a virtual halt, after she left the White House. She told those around her that it wasn't a representation of her feelings toward the man she worked for, but a desire to distance herself from the orbit she had occupied for so long: his. There were several times when she didn't return Trump's call. According to two people familiar with his remark, Trump asked on multiple occasions, "What happened to Hope?"

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s nominee to be United Nations ambassador publicly broke with the White House over climate change on Wednesday, calling it a "real risk" and promising to take the issue seriously if confirmed to the high-profile diplomatic position. The statement by Kelly Knight Craft – made during a contentious Senate confirmation hearing – marked a sharp reversal from her previous comments, in which she said she believed "both sides" of the science on climate change. "Climate change needs to be addressed as it poses real risk to our planet," Craft, who is currently the U.S. ambassador to Canada, said in opening remarks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Let there be no doubt" that human behavior is contributing to global warming, she added. "I will be an advocate in addressing climate change," Craft promised, although she also said the United States should not shoulder an "out-sized burden" in curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Craft's statement was particularly remarkable because of her family ties to the coal industry and because Trump has claimed that global warming is "a hoax" perpetrated by China.

President Trump delivered remarks in Florida in a formal start to his re-election effort.  
By Linda Qiu
President Trump officially began his campaign for re-election on Tuesday at a rally in Orlando, Fla., touching on themes and promoting accomplishments that are likely to be staples of his appearances from now until Election Day. Here’s a fact-check of his remarks. Russia: “Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than Donald Trump.” This is misleading. Whether Mr. Trump has been “tougher” than any other president is subjective. But it’s worth noting that observers of American relations with Russia point to a disconnect between aggressive policies enacted by the Trump administration and not-so-tough language from Mr. Trump himself. In his resignation letter in December, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis emphasized that his views on “treating allies with respect and also being cleareyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors” — Russia, for example — were not shared by Mr. Trump.

By Ellie Kaufman
Washington (CNN) - The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday said states can set their own carbon emissions standards for coal-fired power plants -- a rule that the agency itself says could result in 1,400 more premature deaths by 2030 than the Obama-era plan it will replace. The move fulfills part of President Donald Trump's promise to help the coal industry, but will likely face court challenges from environmental groups and several states who see the rollback as detrimental to clean air and efforts to fight the climate crisis. Former President Barack Obama's plan, if implemented, would have prevented 3,600 premature deaths a year, 1,700 heart attacks and 90,000 asthma attacks, according to analysis conducted by the EPA under his tenure. The Obama Clean Power Plan was set to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to the climate crisis, by up to 32% compared to 2005 levels by the same year. "We are gathered here today because the American public elected a president with a better approach," EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said Wednesday. In an initial announcement about the proposal last summer, the Trump EPA labeled Obama's plan as "overly prescriptive and burdensome." Instead, the administration says the plan rule "instead empowers states, promotes energy independence, and facilitates economic growth and job creation," the release stated.

In 2014, the City of New York settled a wrongful conviction lawsuit with the five men for $41m
By Clémence Michallon
Donald Trump has refused to apologise for saying the Central Park Five should be executed, 17 years after they were exonerated with DNA evidence. The president was asked about the case on Tuesday, in light of Ava DuVernay’s four-part Netflix series about the 1989 case. “You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt,” Mr Trump said after a reporter asked him whether he would apologise to the five men. Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Korey Wise, five black and Latino teenagers, were convicted of attacking 28-year-old white female jogger Trisha Meili, who was raped and beaten almost to death during a run in Central Park on 19 April, 1989. Authorities vacated their convictions in 2002, after convicted murderer and serial rapist Matias Reyes confessed to the attack and said he had committed it alone. DNA evidence backed up his confession.

By Daniel Dale, CNN
Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump kicked off his formal reelection campaign Tuesday night with a rally in Orlando. His 76-minute speech featured more than 15 false statements, many of them ones that he's repeated frequently in the past. Here's a fact check: Energy Trump boasted about his administration's energy policies. "And we've ended the last administration's cruel and heartless law on American energy. What they were doing to our energy should never be forgotten. The United States is now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world." "We are, by the way, the number-one producer of energy in the world because of what we've done right now." Facts First: The US was the world's number-one energy producer before Trump took office — since 2012, under the very president Trump accused of waging the heartless war. The government's official source for energy data, the Energy Information Administration, said in 2016: "US petroleum and natural gas production first surpassed Russia in 2012, and the United States has been the world's top producer of natural gas since 2011 and the world's top producer of petroleum hydrocarbons since 2013." It is crude oil production in particular in which the US became top in the world under Trump, according to the EIA: it surpassed Saudi Arabia and Russia in 2018.

By Elliot Hannon
The Trump administration announced Monday it is sending an additional 1,000 American troops to the Middle East after it accused Iran of orchestrating attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week. The Defense Department said the troops would be deployed for “defensive purposes” and, NPR reports, would primarily consist of intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance, or ISR, as well as force protection and engineers. The increase in troop levels is part of a more general, though still modest buildup that began last month after another series of attacks on ships in the region that the U.S. similarly suspects is Iran’s doing. The U.S., it’s worth noting, is still without a confirmed Secretary of Defense as relations in the region are increasingly strained. “In response to a request from the US Central Command for additional forces, and with the advice of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in consultation with the White House, I have authorized approximately 1,000 additional troops for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East,” acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a statement. “The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region.”

But the administration is looking to pressure the clerical regime, not fight it, a senior official said.
By ELIANA JOHNSON
The Trump administration and its domestic political allies are laying the groundwork for a possible confrontation with Iran without the explicit consent of Congress — a public relations campaign that was already well under way before top officials accused the Islamic Republic of attacking a pair of oil tankers last week in the Gulf of Oman. Over the past few months, senior Trump aides have made the case in public and private that the administration already has the legal authority to take military action against Iran, citing a law nearly two decades old that was originally intended to authorize the war in Afghanistan. In the latest sign of escalating tensions, National Security Adviser John Bolton warned Iran in an interview conducted last week and published Monday, “They would be making a big mistake if they doubted the president's resolve on this.” Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan announced on Monday evening that the U.S. was deploying an additional 1,000 troops to the region for “defensive purposes.” And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo jetted to Tampa, home of Central Command, on Monday evening to huddle with military officials to discuss “regional security concerns and ongoing operations,” according to a State Department spokeswoman. The developments came as Iran announced it was on course to violate a core element of its nuclear deal with major world powers, exceeding the amount of enriched uranium allowed under the agreement in 10 days unless European nations intervened to blunt the economic pain of American sanctions. And they came as U.S. officials promoted video footage and images showing what they say were Iranian forces planting explosive devices on commercial oil tankers.

Trump thinks Obama had it out for him in 2016. George Stephanopoulos debunked that idea with one question.
By Aaron Rupar
During an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that aired in full on Sunday, President Donald Trump accidentally undercut the conspiracy theory he’s been pushing about how the Obama-era FBI leadership purportedly conspired to keep him from winning the 2016 election. After Trump demeaned top FBI brass as “lowlives,” claimed that the entire investigation into Russian interference and his campaign’s role in it was “a setup” that President Barack Obama “must have known about,” and referenced an August 2016 text message in which then-FBI agent Peter Strzok mentioned “an insurance policy,” Stephanopoulos asked him a critical question. “If they were determined to prevent you from becoming president, why wouldn’t they leak it beforehand?” he said. But instead of pushing back, Trump acknowledged that Stephanopoulos’s premise was correct. “You know what, you’d have to ask them,” Trump said. “And you know what — had that gone out before the election, I don’t think I would have had enough time to defend myself.” In other words, even Trump agrees that had top FBI officials leaked word about the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia being under investigation in the months leading up to the election, it likely would have been fatal to his presidential hopes.

He’s  making it harder for future presidents to govern.
By Neal K. Katyal
President Trump has been on an executive privilege extravaganza. In the past month, he’s asserted it to block Congress from obtaining documents about the census citizenship question, invoked it to try to bar the full Mueller report from being given to Congress, and used it to bar his former White House counsel, Don McGahn, from providing documents to Congress. Executive privilege has a legitimate core, but Mr. Trump’s attempts are going to wind up undermining that core, and make it harder for future presidents to govern. He is essentially saying that he will not turn over information to Congress about potential wrongdoing — the absolute weakest claim to executive privilege along the spectrum of possible claims. Our constitutional system is defined by a balance between the public’s need for transparency and the government’s need to have a zone of secrecy around decision making. Both are important, yet they are mutually exclusive. The Constitution erred on the side of transparency, with no mention whatsoever of executive privilege in its original text. But the experience of constitutional government (what some might call a “living Constitution”) is that presidents over time have found a need for their advisers to give them frank information without fear of embarrassment, and the privilege has been used for these sorts of routine matters, by both Democratic and Republican presidents alike. Then came Richard Nixon. He asserted executive privilege to try to block turning over tapes that implicated him and his staff in criminal activity. It didn’t go well for him. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled against Mr. Nixon, saying a president was not above the law. Because the evidence contained on the tapes suggested wrongdoing, the privilege could not be used to shield his and his staff’s misconduct from sunlight. The Supreme Court decision was signed by three justices appointed by none other than Mr. Nixon.

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
(CNN) - On Sunday night, ABC released the full transcript of George Stephanopoulos' two-day(!) interview with President Donald Trump. And, well, wow.
I went through the whole thing -- and pulled out the best lines. They are amazing(ly) odd.

The president portrays himself as a straight talker, but he tends to try every possible response to tough questions to see what sticks.
By David A. Graham Staff writer at The Atlantic
Chris Wallace’s question for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wasn’t complicated, or at least it shouldn’t have been. “Is accepting oppo research from a foreign government right or wrong?” the Fox News Sunday host asked. Yet it had the nation’s top diplomat sputtering. “Chris, you asked me not to call any of your questions today ridiculous. You came really close right there. President Trump has been very clear,” Pompeo said. “He clarified his remarks later.” Of course, had Trump been very clear the first time he addressed the subject, the president wouldn’t have needed to clarify anything later on. Trump’s answers have been a confusing mess; he even contradict himself in a long interview with George Stephanopoulos last week.
Having exploited foreign assistance in 2016 and gotten away with it, the president is already trying it again in the 2020 race.
By David A. Graham Staff writer at The Atlantic
“I’m actually a very honest guy,” Donald Trump told George Stephanopoulos in an interview aired Monday. And while that claim holds no water in general, Trump was jarringly honest on one topic: his willingness to welcome foreign interference in the 2020 election. “It’s not an interference, they have information—I think I’d take it,” Trump said. “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI—if I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, ‘Oh let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it.” There are several plausible ways to interpret this. One, as my colleague David Frum shows, is as an astonishing confession. Another, laid out by my colleague Peter Nicholas, is that Trump has completely failed to learn the lessons of the 2016 campaign. Trump’s declaration, though, is neither especially surprising nor especially irrational. While the president has paid hefty political penalties for his behavior during the 2016 election, and while his latest comments will only stoke the fervor for impeachment among Democrats, the fact remains that the Trump campaign profited from foreign interference in 2016. It did not rebuff explicit offers of assistance from Russia, and capitalized on the roundabout assistance Russia’s release of hacked material provided. Whatever collateral damage Trump has received since the election, Russia’s interference helped him pull off a shocking upset victory in November 2016, and he’s so far escaped serious personal consequences for exploiting that aid.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/06/kellyanne-conway-repeatedly-broke-law/591628/
Kellyanne Conway Broke the Law—And Is Going to Get Away With It
A government watchdog says that the aide to the president is undermining the rule of law, and should be fired.
By David A. Graham Staff writer at The Atlantic
The Office of Special Counsel says that Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, repeatedly violated the Hatch Act and should be fired. OSC says Conway broke the law by disparaging Democratic candidates for president, both while appearing on TV in her official capacity as an adviser to the president and on her Twitter feed. The Hatch Act prohibits most executive-branch employees from politicking. OSC, not to be confused with the office of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, is the federal agency that polices the federal civil service. OSC’s recommendation is important not because it is likely to result in Conway’s firing, but because it is almost certain not to. There’s no question of Conway’s guilt here: OSC doesn’t waffle about whether she broke the law, and there’s no Mueller-style legalistic parsing. The report’s conclusion is clear, as is the recommended punishment. And yet the only person who can punish Conway is the president—the very man on whose electoral behalf she broke the law, and who has made clear, as recently as Thursday, his willingness to break the law in order to win elections. “Ms. Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions. Her actions thus erode the principal foundation of our democratic system—the rule of law,” OSC wrote in a letter to the president. The office identified at least 10 instances of Conway breaking the law.

House Democrats hope to make an end run around Trump’s executive privilege by calling witnesses like Lewandowski and Christie.
By DARREN SAMUELSOHN and KYLE CHENEY
Democrats investigating Donald Trump for obstruction of justice are eyeing a new strategy to break the president’s all-out oversight blockade: calling witnesses who never worked in the White House. Key lawmakers tell POLITICO they hope to make an end run around Trump’s executive privilege assertions by expanding their circle of testimony targets to people outside government who nonetheless had starring roles in Robert Mueller’s final report. That includes presidential confidants like former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Other Russia-related figures who never served in Trump’s administration and would make for prime congressional witnesses include Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, the former top campaign officials who both pleaded guilty and faced extensive questioning by federal prosecutors working on the Mueller probe, as well as a former attorney for Michael Flynn who is cited in the special counsel’s report in an episode involving a dangled presidential pardon. “These people could be called without any reasonable shred of a claim of executive privilege,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a pro-impeachment member of the Judiciary panel that’s leading the obstruction probe. The new line of thinking comes amid Democrats’ mounting frustration at the White House’s ability to slow their investigations to a crawl by blocking witnesses and documents. Such a move might circumvent the president’s resistance and show much-needed momentum for the party.

“They’re giving out phony polls."
By Josh Israel
Days after President Donald Trump was caught gaslighting the American people about an embarrassing campaign poll that he falsely claimed did not exist, he has taken action. Rather than change the conduct and message that has made him the most consistently unpopular president in modern times, he has instead opted to change the messenger. Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign reportedly dismissed three longtime pollsters over the leak of an internal poll that showed him trailing Joe Biden badly in several key states. They included Michael Baselice, Adam Geller, and Brett Loyd. The latter name is particularly noteworthy: he is president and CEO of the polling company inc./WomanTrend, the public opinion firm created by Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway back in 1995. While polling about an election that’s still more than a year away is notoriously unreliable, it is significant that the president of the United States — who, as a candidate, vowed to America “I will never lie to you” — flat out lied about the existence of his own poll. “They were fake polls that were released by somebody that is — it’s ridiculous,” he said last Wednesday after the numbers were first reported.

By Aaron David Miller, Opinion contributors
Tensions in the volatile U.S.-Iran relationship are increasing, and the two sides are ever closer to the possibility of a direct military confrontation since President Donald Trump condemned what was almost certainly an Iranian mine attack disabling two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week. A serious and sustained conflict isn’t inevitable, but the odds have increased. How did we get here and, more troubling, exactly where are we going? Amidst all the hype, spin and storytelling from both sides, here are some harsh truths about the Trump administration and its Iranian adversaries. The Iranian regime is authoritarian, ideological and repressive, a serial human rights abuser and regional troublemaker. But we now find ourselves in a dangerous situation largely as a result of a great unraveling begun by the Trump administration's unilateral decision last year to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement. The accord — known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — was flawed, to be sure, and didn’t address Iran’s aggressive regional behavior or its ballistic missile programs. Even so, it was still a highly functional arms control agreement that imposed significant constraints on Iran's nuclear program for at least for a decade or more. 'Maximum pressure' and no Plan B: Campaigning hard against the agreement, candidate Trump vowed to renegotiate or leave what he deemed the worst agreement ever negotiated. Then as president, he pulled out of the agreement and launched his "maximum pressure" campaign. The administration reimposed sanctions on banking and petrochemicals and, in the past several months, has made a major effort to reduce Iran's lifeblood — its oil exports — to zero. As intended, all of this has wreaked havoc on the Iranian economy. Not surprisingly, the regime, which the Iranian foreign minister quipped had a Ph.D. in sanctions busting, signaled through mine attacks on six oil tankers in the past month that it had options, too. Within hours of Thursday's attacks, oil prices spiked. No matter how egregious the regime’s behavior in other areas, pulling out of the JCPOA without a Plan B other than "maximum pressure" has more than any other factor brought us where we are today.  

By Felicia Sonmez
President Trump on Sunday floated the possibility of staying in office longer than two terms, suggesting in a morning tweet that his supporters might “demand that I stay longer.” The president, who will kick off his reelection campaign on Tuesday with an event in Orlando, has previously joked about serving more than two terms, including at an event in April, when he told a crowd that he might remain in the Oval Office “at least for 10 or 14 years.” The 22nd Amendment of the Constitution limits the presidency to two terms. In tweets Sunday morning, Trump also voiced dissatisfaction with recent news coverage of his administration, calling both The Washington Post and the New York Times “the Enemy of the People.” He added: “The good news is that at the end of 6 years, after America has been made GREAT again and I leave the beautiful White House (do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT), both of these horrible papers will quickly go out of business & be forever gone!”

By Daniel Politi
Washington is intensifying its campaign to install malware in Russia’s power grid in an illustration of how the administration is getting more aggressive as the cyber war between the two countries intensifies. In a bombshell report released Saturday afternoon, the New York Times reveals the United States is stepping up its digital attacks on Russia’s electric grid. The move is seen as part warning to President Vladimir Putin and part a readiness effort to be ready to carry out a significant cyberstrike if a conflict breaks out. The stepped up incursion into Russia’s power grid is part of the broader response to Moscow’s efforts to affect the outcome of the 2018 midterm elections and comes after many within the administration had been calling for more aggressive action despite the “risk of escalating the daily digital Cold War between Washington and Moscow.” And officials say the difference is noticeable. “It has gotten far, far more aggressive over the past year,” a senior intelligence official told the Times. “We are doing things at a scale that we never contemplated a few years ago.”

By Allison Quinn Breaking News Reporter
President Trump has accused The New York Times of committing a “virtual act of treason” by publishing a story Saturday saying his administration has been targeting Russia’s power grid as part of an ongoing operation to counter cyber threats. “Do you believe that the Failing New York Times just did a story stating that the United States is substantially increasing Cyber Attacks on Russia. This is a virtual act of Treason by a once great paper so desperate for a story, any story, even if bad for our Country,” Trump wrote on Twitter late Saturday. “ALSO, NOT TRUE! Anything goes with our Corrupt News Media today. They will do, or say, whatever it takes, with not even the slightest thought of consequence! These are true cowards and without doubt, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!” he said. The Times report relied on three-months worth of interviews with several current and former government officials, who described the deployment of American computer code into Russia’s electrical power grid in a move meant partly as a warning to Russian intelligence and partly as a pre-emptive strike in case of a cyberattack. Trump himself reportedly granted new authorities to the United States Cyber Command last year, and is also said to have personally signed off on an operation to take Russian internet troll farm Internet Research Agency offline during the 2018 midterm elections. National Security Adviser John Bolton also appeared to hint at a more aggressive cyber strategy toward Russia earlier this week. “We thought the response in cyberspace against electoral meddling was the highest priority last year, and so that’s what we focused on. But we’re now opening the aperture, broadening the areas we’re prepared to act in,” he said at a conference sponsored by The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. “We will impose costs on you until you get the point.”

By jonathan drew, associated press
Voting rights activists argue that newly discovered 2015 correspondence between a GOP redistricting expert and a current Census Bureau official bolster arguments that discrimination motivated efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 population survey. The plaintiffs, who successfully challenged the question in a Maryland federal court, said in a filing late Friday that the email exchange between the late Republican consultant Thomas Hofeller and the Census Bureau official was discovered earlier this week. They say the documents give a federal judge, who previously ruled in their favor, latitude to re-examine whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross intended to discriminate against minorities by adding the citizenship question to the 2020 census. While U.S. District Judge George Hazel issued a ruling in April to block the addition of the census question, he said the Maryland plaintiffs failed to prove that their equal protection rights were violated because they hadn't shown that Ross and other officials acted with discriminatory intent. Plaintiffs, citing the new documents, say the judge should reconsider on the equal protection question. "The trial record and the Hofeller documents both reveal that the central purpose of adding a citizenship question was to deprive Hispanics and noncitizens of political representation," the plaintiffs argue, adding that the evidence "explains precisely why Secretary Ross pressed ahead with adding the citizenship question in the face of ... evidence that it would cause a disproportionate undercount of noncitizens and Hispanics."

By MATTHEW CHOI
President Donald Trump said he'd been briefed on Navy pilots reporting increased sightings of unidentified flying objects, adding that he doesn't particularly believe in UFOs. Speaking with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in an interview segment released Saturday, Trump raised his eyebrows and grinned incredulously when asked what he made of the reports. "I want them to think whatever they think," Trump said of the Navy pilots. "I did have one very brief meeting on it. But people are saying they’re seeing UFOs. Do I believe it? Not particularly." The Navy recently drafted new guidelines for how to report encounters with "unidentified aircraft" in response to reports of sophisticated vessels intruding on Navy strike groups, POLITICO reported in April. Pilots reported seeing objects flying at 30,000 feet with no exhaust plumes and at supersonic speeds, according to The New York Times.


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